To the Editor:
Throughout the semester, communications to faculty from the president, the provost and the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have adopted a congratulatory tone, praising achievements of faculty and touting Westminster Choir College performances. This might seem innocent, even praiseworthy. However, these communications strike a very sour note for faculty who have just completed a brutal negotiation session that abruptly terminated many of our hard-won rights, and in the face of the very real threat to Westminster.
The following is paraphrased from a letter sent to the president and the provost, with cc’s to the Board of Trustees. It responds specifically to congratulatory comments about a particular adjunct’s service — including the comment that Rider is “fortunate” to have her — coming on the heels of negotiations that fought to remove the conditions that make this adjunct’s work for Rider possible.[President Gregory] Dell’Omo and [Provost] DonnaJean Fredeen: Both of your messages reflect the pretense that “everything is fine at Rider,” which seems to be the leitmotif of other communications this semester. The two messages cited above came just weeks after the end of brutal negotiations in which administrators demanded take-it-or-leave-it cuts to the pay and benefits of adjuncts. For you two to issue frothy compliments after demonstrating that you care not a whit whether such adjuncts go or stay reveals either an unpardonable ignorance, a gargantuan disrespect for faculty or simply a bitter irony.
The fact that we have talented faculty and adjuncts is not matter of good fortune. It is the result of decades of hard work by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) that built Rider into a place where skilled and dedicated faculty wanted to teach and do research. Last summer, through grim determination, the union beat back some of the worst of the administration’s proposals that would have sent many adjuncts to other employment opportunities.
If Rider is “fortunate,” it is to have a unified faculty with strong leadership that has been able to hold the line on some of the values, academic priorities and working conditions that have helped Rider thrive.
As communicators, we teach students to know their audiences. You might want to consider the impact of your communications — the emails that boast about Westminster achievements even as you try to kill the renowned music school, the administration and staff hirings you tout in the face of attempted faculty layoffs; the dean’s praise just last week — of faculty scholarship as you slash support for research. I could name many more.
Behaving as if you weren’t responsible for, or don’t even remember, the bitter struggles of the last two years only heightens the faculty’s resentment.
— E. Graham McKinley
Professor of communication and journalism
Printed in the 12/6/17 issue.